For many, becoming an entrepreneur represents the chance to not only break free from becoming a corporate drone, but also to become significant. It’s a chance to make a mark on the world and to be “somebody” rather than just “something.”
However, what often gets overlooked in the constant hustle and bustle of being a successful entrepreneur is that becoming significant and making your mark can be accomplished through philanthropy as well.
In addition, philanthropy can serve as a catalyst to your entrepreneurial efforts through the opportunities that are afforded to you after joining the philanthropic community.
So just to recap: You get to help others and grow your brand. If you’re sold, here’s how to dive in:
Know Thyself, and Know Thy Cause.
There are no shortages of causes to get involved in, but finding one you are truly passionate about and that aligns with your business can take a little introspection. If you’re having trouble getting started, try writing down your values, injustices that have always bothered you, news stories that stick with you, or areas where you always wished you could make a difference. To be done properly, philanthropy requires genuine passion and should never be done haphazardly, so choose wisely.
Experiment and Curate.
If it turns out there are multiple causes you’d like to get involved in, it doesn’t hurt to dabble before you dive in. A great way to do this is by exploring existing options and taking a portion of your grant-making to experiment with a few investment “pilots.”
The Bridgespan Group defines investment pilots as a way of exploring areas you care about while generating results by deliberately selecting grantees in a related space. Further, explore those areas by partnering with one or more admirable funders in that space and researching the issues you care about. Pilots help you learn what you personally enjoy funding.
Commit to the Cause.
Once you find a cause, stick with it. Attack the cause with the same tenacity you use in your business. Pay attention to trends that you can capitalize on and additional information you can use to strengthen your message. And always be on the lookout for like-minded people who want to get hands-on and help.
How Philanthropy Gives Back to You.
While charitable acts should be done without the expectation of financial reward, philanthropy has an inherent way of connecting people from all types of backgrounds and professions. As an entrepreneur, your networking light should be blinking as you read this sentence.
Here are four ways you can feel the tangible benefits of philanthropy:
1. Create strong bonds. You can bond with people who share your beliefs during a charitable activity, and that natural bond from the get-go can pay off down the road through like-minded partnerships.
2. Strengthen your reputation. You can add charitable attributes to your company to showcase a vision that goes beyond your business and your industry. Leverage your brand to become a voice and authority on hot-button issues.
3. Generate new ideas. Philanthropy can help you explore your creativity and spark. It can also help expand your ideas for the next stage of your company base.
4. Boost morale. You and your employees can feel good about the company that everyone sacrifices so much time and commitment for. That extra belief often translates into additional gumption and improved company culture.
Taking the time to commit to philanthropy can work wonders — not only for the world and those you’re seeking to help, but the benefits for your company can also be exponential. Good work begets good results, so if you’re an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to not try and save the world.
Kevin Xu is the CEO of MEBO International, a California- and Beijing-based intellectual property management company specializing in applied health systems. He also leads Skingenix, which specializes in skin organ regeneration and the research and development of botanical drug products.